Swiss Bluetec Bridge: Swiss start-ups benefit disadvantaged populations


In addition to the sustainable management of resources and good governance, water-related challenges open up a wide field for technological innovation, particularly in the application of nanotechnologies for water treatment, especially ones which are energy-efficient. The challenge for Swiss Bluetec Bridge is to put these cutting-edge 'Swiss' technologies at the service of the poor and ensure that they are sustainably managed. To do this the project must seek to bridge the gap between public support for start-ups and private investment.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Global
Water
Agriculture & food security
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Agricultural water resources
11.02.2016 - 31.12.2019
CHF 2'340'000
Background

Managing and distributing freshwater resources equitably and promoting sustainable development is one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century. If it continues along the same track, the world will face a global water deficit of 40% by 2030. Against this backdrop, water desalination will certainly become an important aspect of drinking water provision in the future.

While the challenges are considerable, the water market could reach USD 1,000 billion by 2025 – which is huge – opening up a wide field for technological innovation that could benefit Swiss start-ups. There is however a major gap between public support for these small start-ups and private investment: a period during which the firms in question struggle to demonstrate that a profitable business lies behind their technological innovation. Helping to bridge this funding gap to bring these advanced technologies to the poor and enable sustainable management is the challenge to be addressed by the pilot project Swiss Bluetec Bridge (SBTB), which was launched at the end of 2012 by the SDC's Global Programme Water Initiatives.

Objectives

The purpose of SBTB is to accelerate sustainable access to water and sanitation for local residents – especially the poorest in society – in rural areas and in small towns in developing and emerging economies, by providing them with advanced Swiss technology and innovation.

Target groups
  • Poor and rural populations in developing and emerging countries
  • Innovative Swiss start-ups and SMEs
  • Local or regional operators and maintenance staff
  • Financiers and private investors
Medium-term outcomes

1. Increase the number of Swiss companies willing to scale up their business model through private funds. Specifically, the goal is to have at least five companies which, thanks to the quality of their project and the support of the SBTB, will have access to funds to implement their innovation on a larger scale.

2. Establish the first foundations which by the end of the third phase will have made the initiative sustainable.

Results

Expected results:  

  • 5 new projects co-financed with an SBTB loan.
  • The results of co-financed projects are documented and evaluated for 2 or 3 years.
  • A recognised SBTB label is created.
  • SMEs and start-ups in Switzerland and emerging countries have developed business models and impact models ready for use.
  • Communities, local authorities and local entrepreneurs seek Swiss start-ups or SMEs ('market pull').
  • An initiative co-sponsored by other stakeholders
  • The operating mechanism of the SBTB will be documented and updated so that it can be passed on at any time.


Results from previous phases:  

  • The mechanism put in place to identify, select, co-finance, monitor and evaluate the pilot projects is functional.
  • With access to safe drinking water for around 75,000 people now achieved, the overall result of the pilot phase has exceeded initial expectations.
  • The path to profitability is long for most of the companies which have received funding, but the SBTB initiative has enabled the local markets to develop.
  • Entrepreneurs' ability to constantly adapt to conditions encountered and recover quickly after failure is one of the keys to success.
  • The pool of Swiss SMEs and start-ups active in this specific area seems relatively small at the moment.


Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
  • Other Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • Swiss Private Sector
  • Strategos, CEWAS


Other partners

Bodies involved in research, development cooperation, private capital and enterprise development.

Coordination with other projects and actors
  • Selected innovative start-ups and SMEs.
  • Rural poor in developing and emerging economies.
  • Local and regional equipment operators and service providers.
  • Financial and private investors.
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF   2'340'000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF   1'941'484 Total project since first phase Swiss budget CHF  1'577'000 Budget inclusive project partner CHF  6'500'000
Project phases Phase 2 11.02.2016 - 31.12.2019   (Current phase) Phase 1 01.04.2011 - 31.12.2020   (Current phase)